Kids and occupational therapists alike will love this hand strengthening activity for kids. It’s a powerful way to build finger strength and increase grip strength using everyday materials. This fine motor activity is an old one…it’s one that we came up with years ago here on the website. It’s fun to look back at this super easy rubber band activity because the hand strengthening activity is not just fun, but it’s a great therapy tool, too.
This is a no-prep activity that you can pull out on a rainy day, while waiting at a restaurant, or when the kids are itching for something different to do. This building activity is a fun STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) activity that can be modified to meet the needs and interests of your kiddo. I pulled this one out one day when a little nephew was over, and he loved building with something that was a little different than typical building blocks.
This is a great activity for Occupational Therapists use in their treatment, because we’re working on so many skills here: strengthening, bilateral hand coordination, motor planning, and eye-hand coordination.
This finger strength activity is part of our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series, designed to help kids build skills through everyday items.
If playing with blocks is an engaging activity for the children you work with, be sure to check out our DIY cardboard bricks idea.
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Hand Strengthening Activities for Kids
You’ll need just two materials for this activity:
Show your kids how to wrap the rubber bands around the wooden blocks in different ways. Let them get creative with building and creating.
My little nephew was so excited when I showed him this. Cool Aunt status! He sat and built creations for a long time. And watching those little hands building and working was fun for me! Manipulating the rubber bands is such a fine motor workout for kids. Intrinsic hand muscles are needed for so many functional tasks.
Hand and Grip Strength
When kids have a functional finger strength levels, they are able to write and color with endurance. They are able to manipulate small items. Finger strength looks like the ability to open and close plastic baggies and other meal containers at lunch time in the school lunch room. It looks like the ability to manipulate clothing fasteners like buttons, snaps, and even the buckle on a car seat. Finger strength can be tested to see if grip and pinch strength are at typical levels for the child’s age, but if you are noticing that activities the child should be accomplishing like managing items is hard, you can look into hand strengthening and grip strength exercises in more depth.
More signs of hand weakness include:
- Kids with weakness in their hands may have difficulty with coloring and complain that it hurts to color large areas.
- You might see them color or write using their whole arm instead of just their wrist and fingers.
- Hand weakness may be indicated by difficulty cutting a smooth line with scissors. Rather, you’ll see jagged snips.
- Kids with hand weakness might have trouble managing a zipper or pushing a button through a button hole.
- Weakness of the hand is indicated by a poor pencil grasp. Kids with intrinsic muscle weakness will write with a closed thumb web space and will use their thumb to stabilize the pencil.
- And then, you’ll see poor hand writing.
- Hand weakness is indicated by light pencil pressure that is almost illegible, or very light coloring.
- Difficulty with manipulating small items and using in-hand manipulation in managing small parts.
- Trouble with grasping tools like utensils. scissors, scoops, tweezers, and eye droppers.
- Difficulty manipulating and grasping small toys.
Grip exercises for kIds
We know that kids primary occupation is play, right? Kids learn and develop skills through play! So when it comes to strengthening hands, improving grip strength, forearm strength, and pinch strength, the key is to use games and play!
Some other ways that are perfect for hand strengthening are toys and games that are typically recommended by Occupational Therapists. These are some of my favorites:
Toys and Ideas for Working on Hand Strengthening for Kids
- Squeezing water bottles to water plants.
- Therapy Putty
or play dough. Roll the dough into small balls.
- Tear paper.
- Crumble small squares of tissue paper.
- Cut cardstock.
- clothes pins
to match colors in games and learning activities
- Building toys like this Building Blocks Disks or a favorite in our house, ZOOB Building Set
- Squirt toys like these Munchkin Five Sea Squirts
to aim at targets in the bathtub, sink, or plastic bins.
- Small blocks such as LEGOs
are perfect for strengthening the intrinsic muscles, with their resistance needed to push them together and pull them apart. The position hands need to be in to work LEGOS is perfect for strengthening the muscles in the hand.
- Squeeze a hole punch to create lines of holes along an edge of paper.
- Eye Droppers and Tweezers are a fun way to explore sensory play while working on fine motor skills.
- A squeeze toy like this Squishy Mesh Ball is great for hand strengthening and a fun fidget too.
More grip strength activities that you will enjoy:
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.